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The Brooklyn Rail

MAR 2020

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MAR 2020 Issue
Poetry

two


Drew the Ace of Pentacles



sat under vine
in shadow,
in the dappled, I
not wanting to pin
what I see to the I
like the butterfly
under glass, threading leaves,
but to keep up
with the cloudless
sulfur butterfly, like the boy
on a scooter, I bend
toward possibilities
not to trade one fear
for another, shadow
for vine, my mother
chattered at me
like a sparrow
and for years
   I took everything
personally: the revving
of the pickup, orange
trumpet vine, stench
of exhaust, even her grief
became militarized,
all storm, the droplets
sliding off the F-150
idling, skunk
by the roadside, possum
on the median, more
downpour, and my view
washes away. You will lose
everything: trumpet vine, mother,
truck pulling out of the carport,
engine growling beyond
what I can perceive, fences,
cages, not far from here.
   There are no ethics
to despair, we crawl
to the future, like sad children
cocooning to sad teens,
chickadees on a wire
through which who-knows-what
speeds: our blossom-
clad riots and the season
that comes after
with its thunder
and hush.









Further Exercises



Write a 12-line rhythmically charged poem in which you slant rhyme (at least twice) the name of the last official indicted from the Trump administration. Reference the most recent climate-change related disaster. Address by first name one of the 24 migrants who have died in ICE custody since 2017. End with the instructions given to you by a parent or guardian on what you should do when waking from a nightmare.


*


Write a poem as an acrostic of the name of a person you love who is most vulnerable to US government policies. Include a quote (unattributed) from a writer killed by an authoritarian regime


or a line in which you complete the phrase: “I have birthed            and buried          .”


End with a line that snaps like a turnstile at your back, that closes like an iron gate behind you.


*


Typographically represent the 650 miles of border wall teetering on the 2000-mile US-Mexico boundary. Write a 3-word refrain that could be used as a chant to tear the shroud of normalcy. Answer the question: What brought your parents to the place they birthed you? End with a line so open it would allow both a child and an endangered Mexican gray wolf to step through.


*


Begin with the city from which you write. Use your five senses to describe the most recently gentrified neighborhood. Personify a “For Sale” sign or an underfunded public school. Do not include an image of a transient.


*


Write a 48-line poem in which each line ends with you claiming “executive privilege” or some variation of that phrase. Answer the question: What do you call someone who cannot speak and comes without a name? Reference the last time you were terrified by a cop.


End with a metaphor that gasps for air or water


or end with a couplet that screeches like a line drawn in the dirt.


*


Write a poem that binds you and your reader as tightly as the zip ties encircling protestors’ wrists. Use empathy, compassion, complicity. Include all the reasons why you have not placed your body in the streets or the courts to protect the person you love who is most vulnerable to the state. Address that person. End with a line that moans like gas entering your tank or end with a line that divides nothing.


*


In couplets, describe the opening shot of a movie you would make to depict the events of the past year. Slant rhyme the name of at least one known Russian hacking virus. Describe a monument, then deface it.


End by completing the phrase: I would        2000 miles to end        .


*


Write a poem that records all the new developments that have occurred in our country’s continued assault on migrants and/or other nonwhite bodies while you were writing any one of the above poems.


*


Make a list of words that sound like shots being fired on a residential street or that sound like children being herded into cages. Create a poem around these words. It should not rhyme.

Contributor

Susan Briante

Susan Briante, a poet, essayist and translator, is the author of books of poetry: Pioneers in the Study of Motion, Utopia Minus, and The Market Wonders. Defacing the Monument, a series of essays on immigration, archives, aesthetics and the state, will be published by Noemi Press in 2020.

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The Brooklyn Rail

MAR 2020

All Issues